Where do you come from?

It’s complex, but I have learnt to adjust my answers. Sometimes I’d say I am Canadian, originally from Romania, who studied in Sweden and now lives in Germany. Other times I’d say I am Romanian who grew up in Canada, studied in Sweden and currently working in Germany, but actually I am more worldly. I have adopted things from different countries.

Alex Cotoranu 

The global nomad story

When meeting a person for the first time you usually ask where he comes from. Most of us would not hesitate and give a straightforward answer: “ I come from England” or “I am Kenyan”, but for Alex Cotoranu (27) it is a difficult question. He is puzzled every time someone asks him that.  “It’s complex, but I have learnt to adjust my answer,” he says. “I am Canadian originally from Romania who studied in Sweden and now lives in Germany.” Other times he would say, “ I am Romanian who grew up in Canada, studied in Sweden and currently working in Germany.” However, he is not a stereotypical Canadian and he does not associate himself that much with the Romanian culture or the people.

I am actually more worldly, I have adopted things from different countries including Romania, Canada, Italy, Sweden and now Germany.

How the global nomad was made

It all began when Alex Cotoranu was only five years old. Growing up in a revolution-torn capital city of Romania Bucharest in the 1990s, his family was forced to escape the numerous street protests, violence and instability that marked the end of the Romanian communist regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu. The decision to move for the first time he says “is not always yours to take.” Key moments from Cotoranu’s childhood in Romania are still engraved on his mind. “I remember coming out from my grandparents’ apartment during winter months in a stroller and wearing a new pair of winter woollen socks that my grandmother would knit for me every year. I will never forget saying goodbye to my grandparents,” he says with a nostalgic smile on his face. That is exactly time his love for travel and relocation really begun. Having relatives in Hessen and wanting to guarantee a safer future for Alex Cotoranu, the family moved to Germany. Cotoranu attended a German kindergarten, picked up the German language really quickly and made new friends. One day, Cotoranu learnt with a great surprise that the family had decided to move to Vancouver, Canada. “I did not know what to expect. I thought people would be really big and tall there and I would grow up a big Canadian guy,” Cotonaru says laughingly. He began to attend a Canadian school with only 5 Canadian children; the rest came from all over the world. In Canada he learnt to understand that it was okay to be different and to come from a different country. Canada felt international and yet it felt like home. His first deliberately independent decision to move took place when his parents sold out everything in Canada and decided to move back to Germany where they had both found interesting job offers. Cotonaru’s decision was motivated in equal measure by his wish to move close to his parents and his roots, and his own desire for change. He also wanted to be in a different environment for his studies. “Having been in Italy for two months on an exchange program, I felt that love for Europe was growing in me again. I decided to be in the moment, take the opportunity and do a Master’s degree in Europe,” says the young global nomad. Two years after coming to Europe, Cotonaru was living in Copenhagen and studying interaction design at the University of Malmö. University life began again, with the associated freedom of living alone, enjoying a big city, as well as, outdoors and biking culture in Scandinavia. “ Sweden is a special place for me,” Cotonaru smiles. It is a country where he met his Iranian wife Avissa, whom he met studying for the same Master’s program in Interaction design.

New job, new city

Together with his wife, Cotoranu moved back to Cologne where he found an internship in the Communications Department at the European Aviation Safety Agency. Cotonaru seems to enjoy his job to the fullest. “I love to solve problems of interaction between people. I am always looking for news ways of doing it. I love to be creative,” he says. Has Cotonaru’s experience made him different in the work environment? Does his global nomadic character show? Filippo, an Italian colleague, who shares an office with the young multilingual, is convinced that the international experience has shaped Cotonaru’s personality. “He has the ability to adapt easily to different situations, he is open-minded, creative and aware of different cultures,” he confirms.

What the future holds

The surest thing on Cotonaru’s mind now is that he might move again. Although he thinks he might move back to Canada in about 10 years, he is willing to let fate have a hand in it. “Anything is possible, you always plan one thing but you end up doing something different,” he admits. As a nomad, the urge to move towards the next horizon is very strong. As Cotonaru puts it:

Once you have the taste of it, you want to have it more.


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